Saturday, July 31, 2010

Vegan Fried Pickles - Bar Food Sans the Bar

I have totally and completely been obsessing about fried pickles. No, I'm not pregnant. It's my OCD, maniacal side. I haven't been officially diagnosed, but when I set my mind on something, I usually take it right off the deep end. Sometimes a girl just really, really needs something deep fried. Most fried pickle recipes I have found include eggs or buttermilk, so here's an improvisation. I prefer the slices to the spears, but pretty much all kinds of fried pickles are my friends. These don't need extra salting in case you want to head for the shaker. The sodium content in the pickles is plenty. I wish Nate hadn't left me alone with my vices today. Boredom and too much time on one's hands leads to mischief. Fortunately I only made a small batch. Am I the only one who adores fried pickles?

2 T. Brown Rice Syrup
2 T. Maple Syrup
1 T. Grainy Dijon
1 C. Corn Flakes
1/2 C. Flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour, but any would do)
1/2 t. Garlic Powder
1/2 t. Black Pepper
Small Pinch of Salt
2 T. Vegenaise
Jar of Dill Pickle Slices, large crinkle cut is best
Canola Oil or other Vegetable Oil

Pour about 2 inches of oil in a small heavy pot. Set over medium high heat.  On a paper towel, set a layer of pickles.  Pat dry. Combine syrups and Dijon in a bowl. Reserve 1 T. sauce. Combine 1 T. reserved syrup mixture with 2 T. Vegenaise. Set aside. This will be your dipping sauce. In a food processor, combine corn flakes, flour, garlic powder, pepper and pinch of salt. Pulse until well processed, but the corn flakes still have some body left. Place mixture into lidded tupperware container. Add 5-7 pickle slices to mixture. Cover and shake until well coated. Add to heated oil, and fry for about 3 minutes or until golden brown. Set on paper towel to drain excess oil.

Nate's Two Cents:  For the record, I'm the one saying Tara's pregnant.  I just think there's something very ovarian about suddenly needing one specific fried food....and needing it NOW. But anyway, for what it's worth, I'm glad she had the craving.  The pickles were tremendous.  Perfect blend of sweet and salty, and somehow they didn't lose that "crunch" that sets good pickles apart.  I secretly wished she had made more.  There, I said it.  Tara, next time make more.

P.S. I'm really not pregnant. - Tara

Friday, July 30, 2010

Misir Watt

One great thing about being a budding vegan is all the new recipes I have been able to try as of late. I'm one of those cooks who never makes much of the same thing more than once.  I think it gives more creative value to to process of cooking and eating. I do have a few family favorites, but I really do love trying new things.  Recently I went to Blue Nile Cafe at the Kansas City River Market, a really great Ethiopian restaurant.  They have a great selection of vegan items on the menu, all of which are really flavorful and spicy. It got me really interested in learning more about about this particular cuisine. I love discovering new spice combinations. I found a really great local blog called Almost Vegan written by a fellow Kansas Citian (yes there are actually vegans in the Midwest) who had recently taken classes at Blue Nile. She shared the recipe for Misir Watt (Ethiopian Lentils) along with really great instructions, and how to images. This turned out really great. You do have to have berbere, a special spice that I purchased directly from the restaurant, but maybe you could find it at a specialty shop in your area. I also picked up some injera which is Ethiopian bread that I had neither the time nor the inclination to replicate at this time :)  There are a few other Ethiopian recipes I plan on trying, and will of course share them with you soon!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Vegan Chocolate Cake & Chocolate Frosting

One of my many hobb-sessions, as Nate likes to call them, through the years has included cake making.  When this particular hobby/obsession came into my life, you could find me at Michael's or pretty much anywhere that had cake decorator tools. Of course like most of my hobbies, they die a slow death, but at least I can pick them up when I need them. My kids absolutely love when I tell them I'm going to make a cake. They run into the kitchen and grab two chairs and perch on them waiting for instruction on what ingredient gets poured into the bowl next. With only 2 weeks of summer left, it's a great time to bake together.  I'm sad to see my little helpers go back to school.  I have standby cake recipes that are most definitely not vegan. Time to improvise!

I found the cake recipe on Post Punk Kitchen. If you haven't already visited the site, it's a fun place to find recipes. All the recipes I've tried so far have been fantastic. I used the Rich Chocolate Cake recipe. I love that the recipe uses whole wheat pastry flour and maple syrup rather than sugar. Do follow the time suggestion. I left mine in a few minutes longer because it didn't seem done at the alloted time, and while it was still very moist and delicious, I think a few minutes less would have made a more moist cake the next day. I wouldn't know because I didn't have any left because it got gobbled up at a family gathering in 3 seconds flat, so it's just a guess. The frosting is a Chocolate Buttercream.  I mourn the loss of swiss meringue buttercream, as of course there are no eggs left in my life, but I have to say this one was still really delicious.  Really, who doesn't love chocolate frosting? I transformed an old recipe with vegan ingredients.

Vegan Chocolate Buttercream

2 C. Earth Balance Butter, room temperature
12 oz. Vegan Semi Sweet Chocolate, melted and cooled
3 T. Plain Soy Milk
2 t. Vanilla
5 C. Powdered Sugar

Beat the butter in a stand mixer until fluffy for about 2 or 3 minutes. Slowly add melted chocolate with mixer on low. After chocolate and butter are well combined, add vanilla, milk and sugar. Beat at medium low until just combined. This makes enough to frost 2 8-9 inch cakes. I had leftover frosting which I plan to use on a few cupcakes, or to eat out of the fridge as necessary :)

Nate's Two Cents: I'm really out of my element commenting on cakes, but I'll say this much, I really, really enjoyed this one. To me, anything with "chocolate" in the title should taste like it. And this cake is the real deal. There's no way I'd have known it didn't have eggs or refined sugar.  In fact, the maple syrup worked so well it inspired me to start sweetening my coffee with it. So my advice would be to just not even bother telling your guests what the cake doesn't have in it, unless they accuse you of violating your vegan values. What they don't know won't hurt 'em.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Goodbye precious friend...I can't wait to see you again.

So, you who actually read my blog have probably wondered where on earth I have gone. In early July one of my greatest friends on earth and sister in law Shanna passed away at the very young age of 43 due to complications after several major surgeries she had had 2 months prior. We had been friends for some time before she became my sister in law. We talked often of how fun it would be to be sister in laws, and how we would cook this or that for our families. I thank God that she became no longer just my friend but my family in 2002. This has been to date one of the greatest losses of my life.

It's been hard for me to think about sharing recipes or cooking and not being able to share that experience with her. One of Shanna's greatest gifts to the world was the food she prepared. Raising a family of 4 taught her how to stretch food on a very tight budget, and to be able to share it with so many others as well.  I can't count how many times she brought me dinner; soups, lasagna, enchiladas, and of course her famous desserts which were the best ever! Her funeral was so big that they had to break out extra chairs because there were SO many people. From bank tellers to hairdressers, all had stories of how she had brought them one of her creations.  She was extraordinarily giving.

More than anything, I admired Shanna's ability to put one foot in front of the other and serve people despite whatever hurts she may have carried in this life. When I have been hurt, I have stayed in and kept my gifts to myself and chose not to share my abilities with others. She never, ever did that. What a precious gift to me she was, and now especially after I no longer have her in my life I know even more so just how great a gift she was indeed.  I hope to make her proud and begin to give as she did not only of myself, but of my food :)  I'll miss being able to put together recipes with her, and share food with her. I know that I will see her again, and can't wait to share with her all that has happened since. I hope to have many cooking parties with her precious kids, so we can learn from one another how to be more like their more than amazing mom. So, as I soldier on I hope I can share food with you too, my few readers, even if we may never meet or share a table. Thank you Shanna for your example, for sharing your amazing faith in God, for being a mentor to me in more than a dozen ways, and more than anything for your friendship.  I'll miss you so much.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Some Like it (Very, Very) Hot - Masoor Daal

I found this recipe while searching the web. There's a great network of vegan food blogs, and someone is always suggesting one recipe or another. Lentil dishes always catch my eye because I'm always trying to find new ways to add protein dishes to my repertoire. I've always been a fan of Indian and South Asian food, but I've never really built a real understanding for the blends of spices that bring together the complex flavors of these cuisines. Enter Spicy Habbity, a blog written from the perspective of a Pakistani American with many traditional family recipes in her back pocket. I have to admit, that even for a (partly) Puerto Rican girl who adores really spicy food, this Masoor Daal is FA-laming hot, or maybe I'm just a wuss. Either way, this is one seriously delicious bowl of soup. I made it exactly according to the recipe even though my inner (don't do it) spice instinct said N-O to the whole teaspoon of cayenne it called for. I think if I made it again, I would add less water than the recipe called for. The picture on the blog makes this soup look much thicker than mine turned out (so I added a scoop of brown rice), and of course I might add less cayenne so I could eat bowls and bowls of it without passing out from internal combustion.

Edit: After sitting in the fridge, the soup mellowed out and thickened up to perfection. I wouldn't change a thing :) 

Nate's Two Cents: I may be the wrong person to ask since I have a general taste for international food, but all in all I really liked the Masoor Daal, which has a familiar texture something like split pea soup. As for the fire: Yes, it's spicy. No, it's not where's-a-piece-of-bread-quick-this-stuff-is-incinerating-my-tongue hot. Think instead of that time when your brother dumped an extra spoonful of cayenne in the soup when you weren't looking. Yes, you could taste the mischief when the final product was finished, but it's not as if the other flavors disappeared. If anything, it just made the soup more fun. So don't be scared. It's good. Really good.